Alice has a new kitten! She’s going home to her parents to plan her next move with the Lamprey following her
Of course, home reunions aren’t great - Alice never really got on with her mother, Stephanie, in the first place and they start striking sparks instantly. It doesn’t help that Alice has been alive again for months and hasn’t bothered to visit or even inform them - Quentin had to do that. Alice’s paranoia over the Lamprey also makes her hard to talk to in the least.
Life has not gone well for Alice’s parents: the house is falling apart since it was held up with magic. They have no income and no employment skills and they have bills coming in they never had to pay before. Even one of their friends has turned to drink without magic to change how she looks. Again we see how the lack of magic has completely devastated the witches and wizards out there.
Alice’s paranoia leads her to randomly tasing people since electricity hurts Lampreys and driving out one of her mother’s friends. Her mother’s also not pleased that Alice suspected this woman was a lamprey and left Stephanie alone with her.
Quentin - who is actually possessed by the lamprey follows Alice (because exploding cats and all) but after many shenanigans with cellophane and tasers they decide Quentin isn’t infected. As Stephenie and Alice fight we learn a little more about the niffin - how they do anything for knowledge and Alice as a niffin earned the Lamprey’s wrath by killing its whole family, slowly, to research their deaths. This is what niffin are - terrifying and horrible and powerful and Alice, not inaccurately (albeit a past tense would apply), describes herself as “a monster”. She’s clearly dealing with a lot of guilt over this, especially since the Lamprey was just one of many victims
When Quentin tries to comfort Stephanie, she tries to kiss him - which i recall is fairly standard behaviour for her - which leads to Alice panicking and atsig folks. Because the Lamprey doesn’t want to kill her but lay its eggs in the brains of everyone around her. Stephanie is tased. Quentin tases himself to prove his sincerity - leaving Alice and her dad alone and realising her beloved father is possessed. The lamprey makes her confess the real reason she killed its family: they make pretty lights when they die.
Niffin are deeply terrifying creatures.
The Lamprey also claims her dad has a heart condition so can’t be tased… after some agonising, Alice tases him (preferable to having eggs laid in his brain I guess). The Lamprey is exposed and she tases it. It dies… and it does produce pretty lights
Everyone has time to recoup and take nasty potions to remove any eggs left in them - and she and Quentin talk about why she’s pushing him away. Ultimately, this Alice isn’t Niffin Alice, but she isn’t the Alice she was before either (as we can see from her new advanced speed reading). She can’t go back to that and Quentin, with his silent expectations even if he promises he only wants to help, constantly reminding her of who she was and can never be. I think we have to throw a large amount of guilt on that as well as another obvious conflict: she may not be that woman any more, but how much of her wishes she were.
Elsewhere Julia manages to find Kady and the battery but Kady is firm - Julia helps her save Penny or she leaves. That’s it. Julia agrees to help. Even when it turns out the ritual involves summoning a demon and any sensible person would be perturbed - but Julia who has suffered terribly at the hands of summonings gone wrong?
Despite this she agrees and they summon the demon Asteroth. Not Astaroth - different spelling, a whole lot less titles and he’s also not into the whole bowing and kneeling thing. He’s actually quite a nice guy who is willing to help with Penny’s cancer (to eat it - because this is Magicians and everything is awful). The process is agonising so Penny astrally projects out of his body so he doesn’t have to feel it.
And when he dies afterwards, Penny’s astral self is still around. Well, I guess it’s better than dying dying? At least it gives him a way back and hopefully back into the main cast as well.
Still faintly amused that the demon is a genuinely nice guy
On to Fillory where everything is weird and bizarre. Elliot is still at sea with his little crew trying to figure out how to use the magic key when pirates attack. Fray is ready to fight, Fen is ready to do anything she can to protect her daughter. While Elliot… well Elliot is a powerful wizard without magic. Elliot doesn’t do physical confrontation. Thankfully there’s a random keyhole appeared in the side of the ship which fits the magic key. The choice between pirates or unknown, Elliot goes for unknown
Unfortunately back in Fillory on the ground, Queen Margo who is already losing her last scraps of patience to ridiculous fae demands (like digging up perfectly good crop fields to replace them with mushrooms) hears that the High King may now be in the hands of pirates. Margot does not need this shit. She needs to get to Elliott asap, but without magic that’s awfully difficult
So he goes and has an epic confrontation with the fairy queen pointing out that the kingdom may be taken over by the fae but if they let the High king to be messed with. The fairy queen understands the message and agrees to arrange some pegasus to get them to the ship to speak to the Pirates
And their king. Who is a woman, but she’s the king and if the king says she wants to be called king not queen, you call her king. She’s also super flirty with Margo who is super flirty back but also an excellent politician and keeping sex on the table but not until the king puts out politically and Margo gets what she wants. The problem is that part of what the king wants is for her sentient male ship to have sex with the muntjack, Flliory’s sentient female ship.
When Margo discusses this with her minions, they point out how ships after this experience are never the same. The symptoms he describes Margo rightly identifies as PTSD - she realises that they want her to use her Queenly authority to make her ship submit to rape.
Margo isn’t happy about this and goes to the ship’s heartwood to ask the ship what she wants. She doesn’t get an answer - but she is watched by the queen of fairies who is moved by her plea. And promptly slaughters the pirates and takes their teeth, as you do
Unfortunately while I would have thought the lesson here was compassion, the Fairy Queen has apparently taken this as a learning point about standing up to people and how Margo should learn and basically stab people when they defy her. So, not necessarily the lesson wanted here. She clearly expects Margo to keep doing this to fulfill her wishes
She also wants Margo’s eye back which Trick one of her minions has stolen. Margo says it’s her eye - but Margo made a deal. She gives the eye back, but not before crushing it in her hand. She also refuses to give up her minion - more defiance; and the fairy queen strikes back by whispering an extremely annoying song into the head of one of her minions. Now that’s just evil.
I am desperately looking forward to the time Margo kicks the Fairy queen out of her court. It has to happen and I am looking forward to it so much.
Alice is a complex and painful character at the moment - and painful angsty chaacters are definitely Magicians things. I suspect we’re going to have ghostly Penny for the foreseeable future